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Top 10 Steve Ballmer quotes: '%#&@!!' and so much more

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The big fella's bête noire

5. "I don't really know that anybody's proven that a random collection of people doing their own thing actually creates value."

Back to Ballmer's bête noire; Google. In 2007 when speaking to a collection of Stanford students, he derided Google's 20 per cent policy, which allowed staffers to work on their own projects, and called its hiring policy "insane".

The "arrive early/leave late" ethos at Microsoft has been ingrained from the start – Bill Gates once had a screaming row with cofounder Paul Allen because the latter skipped work for a day to go and watch the first shuttle launch. Ballmer has fully supported the policy, and it is certainly noticed if you're not putting the hours in on campus.

Google has reportedly been pulling back on the 20 per cent time system (a claim the company denies), but it's difficult to argue it hasn't had its successes. So far it has spawned Google Reader, AdSense, the driverless car program much beloved of Sergey Brin, and the regular transparency reports Google introduced to the industry.

Not all of these have paid off – yet – but there's more than a few of them that have had a real benefit to Google's bottom line and image within the industry.

4. "The most common format of music on an iPod is 'stolen'."

This 2004 comment to British hacks was technically right at the time. Not all of the music on iPods was illegally downloaded, but this was a time when the music industry was trying to tell consumers that simply ripping the CDs you'd bought was theft.

But the quote is telling in that it showed quite how little Ballmer understood the consumer market, which has become something of a theme during his tenure as CEO. Yes, Apple's DRM systems weren't as tight as Microsoft's, but that's one of the reasons Apple was so popular – rights management interfering with and irritating buyers.

You also don't win people over by calling them names, something other people in the industry should bear in mind (we're talking to you, Mr. Schmidt).

3. "Linux is not in the public domain. Linux is a cancer that attaches itself in an intellectual property sense to everything it touches. That's the way that the license works."

Back in the dotcom bust period of 2001, Steve Ballmer went on something of a rant about the licensing terms of open-source software and created this memorable gem.

The fact is, open source has never been so popular, and far from being a cancer it has spawned a whole host of useful code and has left companies like Red Hat with very healthy balance sheets. What Ballmer should have added is that Linux is cancer to Microsoft's business plan.

That attitude led to the long and fruitless fight against Linux in a proxy war using litigation by SCO, which was at least partially funded by Microsoft. With SCO now in the dustbin of history after countless millions were wasted in legal fees, the whole affair looks like a colossal waste of time.

Redmond is still remarkably resistant to open source but appears to be coming around on the issue. Some things are too big to ignore – Apache springs to mind – and Microsoft could have benefitted from taking a little more time to work with the open-source community rather than fighting a Canute-like battle against it.

2. "$500, fully subsidized, with a plan! That is the most expensive phone in the world and it doesn't appeal to business customers because it doesn't have a keyboard, which makes it not a very good email machine."

This quote, from a TV interview shortly after the iPhone was announced, shows just how badly Ballmer didn't get the mobile market.

Ballmer was scathing about the device, pointing out that Microsoft was selling millions of phones and suggesting that Steve Jobs had made a very big mistake with the iPhone. The rest, as they say, is history.

Ballmer took personal control of the Windows Phone team in 2009 after the operating system became an industry byword for how not to do a mobile OS in the face of the polished performance of iOS and Android's popularity. The results have been mixed, to say the least.

While Windows Phone 7 did win some adherents, and Phone 8 looks likely to wrest third place in the market from the struggling BlackBerry, we're still talking about a tiny percentage of the entire smartphone market. Microsoft's attempts to extend its position from the desktop to the handset are continuing, but there's no way it's going to seriously challenge Android or Apple any time soon.

1. "Developers, developers, developers, developers."

This is the quote for which Ballmer is best known after he put in a disturbing performance at Microsoft's 25th anniversary celebrations in 2000.

A shiny-faced Ballmer leapt around the stage clapping his hands and chanting the words "developers" to illustrate where Microsoft should be putting its attention. Ballmer was praised by some for his enthusiasm but the sight of him screaming at the audience with huge sweat stains in his shirt spawned the "Monkey Boy" meme that still haunts him to this day.

He carried on doing similar presentations for a while, shifting the chant to "web developers" at one stage, but has now retired from such antics, telling the Web 2.0 conference in 2011 that at his age it was just getting too tiring.

Nevertheless, the internet never forgets, and there have been some truly inspired remixes of Ballmer's chant which El Reg suspects will be around longer than he is. ®

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